Cannabis Growth Stages – Here’s What You Need to Know
The Cannabis plant has different growth stages throughout its lifecycle. And each of these stages during the cultivation process has unique demands in terms of nutrients, water, and light.
To grow a cannabis plant, you need around 4 to 8 months. But it does vary based on where you are growing your plant. For example, if you have an indoor space growing your plant, it will flower within a few weeks.
However, the quality of your cannabis plant will significantly depend on your knowledge of these different cannabis growth stages and how you meet the demands for each stage.
In this post, we will list down the different growth stages of this plant. We will elaborate on other details associated with each of these stages and how you can effectively manage your plant throughout its lifecycle.
Growth Timeline of a Cannabis Plant
1, Germinating (1 to 7 Days)
For effectively germinating your cannabis plant, you have to make sure that the seeds are mature. If you use immature seeds, they will not properly germinate. Properly mature cannabis seeds are shiny and light to dark brown. They are hard and dry to touch.
Underdeveloped cannabis seed is soft to touch and green or white. You have to keep your cannabis seeds in the dark and wet for proper germination. You can also use a cup of water or wrap them up in a wet paper towel and place it inside a grow cabinet.
If you expose them to moisture with light, it will stimulate hormones and boost the growth process. A single cannabis plant root is called a radicle, and it will shoot downward as the new stem grows in the opposite direction. It will cause the seed to come out of the soil.
Unlike the leaves of a common marijuana plant, cannabis plants will have a couple of rounded cotyledon leaves that will sprout from the stem as the plant comes out of the protective casing of the seed.
These cotyledon leaves absorb the energy that they receive from the sunlight and boost the plant’s growth. As soon as the roots are developed, and the plant shoots out its true leaves, it comes out of its seedling stage.
2. Seedling (2 to 3 Weeks)
It is a fragile stage of a cannabis plant, and it must receive at least 18 hours of sunlight throughout the stage. You have to provide moist soil and mild humidity for fast growth.
During this stage, the cannabis plant has a very small root system. Therefore, you have to be careful not to overwater it, or you will end up drowning the plant. After your cannabis plant becomes a seedling, it will have more traditional appearing cannabis leaves.
In comparison, marijuana leaves have 3 to 13 fingers. The eaves that come out of a sprout will only have a rigged finger, and with growth, these leaves will develop more fingers. A mature marijuana plant will have around 5 to 7 fingers in each leaf, and this number can reach up to 13.
The leaves with the first finger can be up to four inches and will have serrated edges. These leaves grow on the opposite sides of the stem. Therefore, you will have to treat a cannabis plant as a seedling till it develops leaves with a full set of fingers.
A healthy seedling should be short and have thick vegetation with vibrant green color. The growing environment needs to be clean and not have excessive moisture in the seedling stage. It is to make sure the plants don’t become moldy.
3. Vegetative Phase (2 to 8 Weeks)
Once your cannabis seedling has developed seven sets of pointed leaves, the vegetative growth stage has started. You will have to relocate it in a larger pot to boost its growth.
During this stage, its stem becomes taller and thicker. The plant will start to produce more nodes, leaves, and branches. Moreover, its root system will become more established to shoot out flowers.
During this stage, you can start training and topping your cannabis plant. Spacing between the nodes of your cannabis plant will tell you the type of cannabis you are growing. In this stage, nodes and leaves will still develop in pairs, but they will have more distance between them, and braces will not develop in parallel to one another.
You will also notice secondary nodes on the branches from the main stalk. You have to increase watering to aid your plant’s development during this stage.
With growth, its roots grow outwards, and you have to water so that the root tips can absorb water and grow faster. You will have to provide it with air water and ensure it receives plenty of dry air.
You need to provide your plant with potassium and nitrogen-rich nutrients during this stage. Moreover, you will also have to provide plenty of soil space to grow two to three feet tall.
The plant’s growth will depend upon how much light it can get through its leaves for the process of photosynthesis. Therefore, you need to provide 18 hours of sunlight and 6 hours nighttime for your indoor plants for better growth.
4. Pre-Flowering (1 to 2 Weeks)
Once it enters the pre flowering stage, you can determine the sex of your plant by having a look at the pre-flower nodes. The female cannabis plant has a couple of pistils on the buds. A pistil contains the reproductive parts of a cannabis flower.
Flowers grow above the leaves, and there is a cluster on each side. On the other hand, male cannabis plants have small green sacs with pollen, and these sacs will be present on the node areas.
Pollen can fertilize any nearby female plants’ cola and ruin their trichomes’ psychoactive potential. Therefore, you have to remove male or intersex plants before they flower.
A cola or a terminal bud is a flowering site on a female plant, where flowers grow tightly together. Healthy cannabis plants typically develop a single main cola right at the center and a smaller cola outside. You will have to trim and train your plant to allow larger colas to grow.
Non-pollinated female weed plants have sinsemilla, as they have no seeds and have more cannabinoids. These sinsemillas have high psychoactive agent concentration. Therefore, they can increase sociability, talkativeness, munchies, hallucinations, and euphoria. These plants have high volumes of fake seed buds and resin with high THC.
These sinsemillas have white hair that sprouts from the bracts present at the nodes of these plants. As your weed plant begins to receive less light daily, the growth will halt, and the flowering stage begins.
5. Flowering (6 to 8 Weeks)
The cannabis flowering stage begins naturally when your cannabis plant starts receiving less than 12 hours of daily light. Your cannabis bud will need at least 10 to 12 hours of full darkness daily during this stage.
You will know that your plant is ready for harvesting when you see the pistils’ color on those cola buds change from white to reddish-orange. The trichome heads will also change color from transparent, milky, opaque, and amber.
Amber color indicates more CBD-THC ratio in the cannabinoid within its resin. Trichomes have THC, flavonoids, terpenes, and various other cannabinoids. With the development of flower clusters, more cannabinoids develop, and their clusters become stickier.
During this stage, your plant likes warmer weather and mid-level humidity. It will benefit from intermittent nutrients for blooming. If you notice that trichomes are falling off, you have allowed your plant to grow too long, and most of its cannabinoids are gone.
Therefore, you will not get any THC or CBD effects and must begin with a new batch. Trichomes will turn cloudy white to brown once their THC starts weakening. Having a few trichomes in brown color is fine because it indicates your plant is ready to harvest.
It is best to allow half of the trichomes to turn opaque before harvest because it results in higher THCs and lower CBDs.
6. Harvesting (8 to 10 Weeks)
You should cut down your cannabis plant into smaller branches to simplify your drying process for harvesting. When you have cut your plant into smaller sanctions, you must strengthen the species and hang them upside down in a dark and cool room.
Commercial cannabis is dried by keeping the humidity levels between 40 percent to 50 percent. You have to keep your plants hanging from 7 to 14 days. Drying your cannabis plant is important because it avoids any development of bacteria or fungus.
You are essentially removing moisture, and by doing so, you will preserve the life of your cannabinoids. If you complete the drying process too fast, it will result in harsh cannabis.
Curing your cannabis is optional, and it involves aging it in a sealed and airtight container. You can use mason jars for curing and place them in a cabinet where the temperature ranges between 50F to 60F.
Where To Plant Cannabis?
The ideal place to grow your cannabis plants is in soil indoors or outdoors. But soil is not mandatory if you use aeroponics or hydroponics to grow your plants.
The potting soil must contain phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen nutrients. You can use fertilizers in the soil but with caution. The pH levels of your soil need to remain within 5.8 to 6.5. Remember that commercial fertilizers (even organic ones) make your soil more acidic.
The temperature of the environment needs to remain between 75F and 86F. It is important because temperatures higher than 88F and below 60F will result in less THC potency, and growth will be slow. At 55F, the cannabis plant goes into a mild shock, while some strains might withstand temporary frost.
You can use sunlight or grow light, and with artificial light, your plant will need 16 to 24 hours of light and up to 8 hours of darkness from germination to flowering.
Longer light periods are suitable for vegetation and longer dark periods for flowering. Humidity levels are ideally suitable for a cannabis plant remain between 40 percent to 60 percent.
Best Time to Plant Cannabis Plant
To cultivate your cannabis plant outdoors, you need to go to areas that receive at least 12 hours or more of daily sunlight.
In the northern hemisphere, cannabis growers prefer mid-April, late May, and early June to plant cannabis seeds. It is ideal for providing your cannabis plants with full 4 to 9 months of growth.
Harvest usually takes place between mid-September to early October. Cannabis plants typically flower during late summer through to fall. This season can run up to mid-November in warmer climates.
Different Types of Cannabis Plant
Primarily, there are four different types of cannabis. All four of these types of cannabis have different levels of active compounds.
This cannabis species tends to have higher levels of THC than other types and have CBD as well. This type is used for medical and recreational along with industrial purposes. This species is taller and lankier than other types and can be as high as 20 feet.
This species has lower THC and higher CBD compared to Sativa. Therefore, it has lesser psychoactive traits. Indica cannabis is used for medical purposes with a similar ailment relief with a lesser intoxication effect. This plant is bushy and soft, and it takes much less time for maturity.
This type is not used a lot, and it has low levels of THC, just like Indica cannabis. But it also doesn’t have many CBDs to make it fit for use in medicine. Therefore, it is used with Sativa or Indica to create different hybrid versions.
Hybrids occur when two or more cannabis species are crossed. It results in new species and is created when growers want to get the best of both plant parents for a superior offspring. But it is always experimental breeding, and you can use any cannabis plant to achieve the best results.
Tips For Growing High-Quality Cannabis Plant
Here are some important tips that you need to grow high-quality cannabis plants.
- You have to make sure that you only source quality cannabis seeds. Make sure to do your research before you find the best quality seeds for growing marijuana. Mighty Seed Hemp is a good option. These seeds are hulled and have a slightly nutty flavor.
- You have to maintain proper temperature and humidity during the growth stage of your Cannabis plant. For seedlings, the temperature should be around 65F to 75F, and the humidity level should be around 60 percent. The ideal temperature for adult planets under lighting is around 80F, and humidity should be 55 percent. For adult plants without lighting, 62F to 72F is the ideal temperature with 55 percent humidity.
- Make sure you provide your plant with enough carbon dioxide. It is especially the case if you are growing your cannabis plants indoors. When growing outdoors, this is not an issue at all.
- Ensure that you provide your cannabis plants with proper fertilizers, but don’t go for commercial fertilizers because they are overly acidic.
- You also need to provide your cannabis plants with proper spacing and the right amount of airflow for rapid growth. Finally, don’t forget to prune your plants at the right time.
Cannabis plants have unique demands in each stage throughout their lifecycle. Growing your cannabis plants outdoors is a better option if you don’t live in harsh weather.
But it is much simpler to grow outdoors than growing these plants indoors because you will have to be careful with the temperature and humidity levels at different stages of your plant growth.
You might also need ample space indoors because these cannabis plants need space and airflow for faster growth. Otherwise, you might not get sufficient THC and CBD levels in your cannabis plant when you harvest it.
Understanding The 4 Key Growth Stages Of Marijuana Plant
The laws of nature dictate that all living things must go through a life cycle. The unicellular amoeba and the apex predators like tigers have distinct growth stages, and the marijuana plant it’s no different. Whether you intend to cultivate, harvest or process marijuana, understanding the plant and the various developmental stages it goes through is essential.
Knowing each stage and its duration helps identify the specific needs of the marijuana plant at any given time. This knowledge will tell you when to ventilate, prune, water, and finally harvest your marijuana.
So you get the point, a firm grasp of the life cycle of marijuana is crucial for growing the plant. Fortunately, this post covers the four distinct stages that complete the cannabis life cycle, with the key points including:
The duration of the entire marijuana life cycle
How to grow cannabis successfu lly
How to identify the sex of your seeds
Ways to stimulate germination
Factors essential for growth at each stage
The distinctive features of the female and male marijuana plant
Let’s dive right into it.
How Long Does It Take Marijuana Plants to Mature?
The typical marijuana growing cycle lasts between 10 to 32 weeks or anywhere from three to eight months. It takes you less time if you choose to go with autoflower or clone seeds. As you’ll soon understand, the stage between when the plant grows from a seedling until it produces flowers accounts for most of the variability in the duration. Keeping this in mind, let’s look at each development stage.
The Four Marijuana Growth Stages
Germination (1-10 days)
All marijuana plants begin their life cycle as seeds. Like humans, plants undergo sexual reproduction to transfer their genes to the next generation. Therefore, you can categorize cannabis plants into male and female groups. If you want to grow marijuana for its flowers, you’ll need to look for female plants because they are the only ones that produce massive consumable flowers.
Consequently, you want to get high-quality and feminized marijuana seeds from seed banks for cultivation. After obtaining your feminized seeds, you can proceed with their germination. Each seed requires some attention and care to sprout. The two conditions you needed to control at the germination stage include:
Most growers use the simple paper towel method to bring seeds out of dormancy, although there are other ways to germinate a marijuana seed.
The paper towel includes the following steps:
Water-soak four paper towels, place two on a flat solid surface like a plate, and spread out feminized marijuana seeds on the damp towel.
Position the remaining two towels in another place and cover the first plate with the second with your seeds inside.
Maintain a room temperature of about 70 to 90˚F and always ensure your paper towels are wet.
Within 24 hours to seven days, you will notice a white taproot emerging from the seeds. Once you see the taproot, transfer them to a growing medium like soil or hydroponics setup. Congratulations, you have crossed the first stage, but the work has just started.
Seedling (2-3 weeks)
Your germinated seeds will continue growing as seedlings and break through your growing medium as tiny marijuana plants. The seedling stage produces two outward opening leaves for the reception of sunlight. Following these are the familiar cannabis leaves going upwards and the root system growing downwards.
Depending on your strain and growing medium, this stage can last for 2-3 weeks. However, some marijuana plants persist in the seedling stage for as long as six weeks. The critical environmental factors you want to maintain during the seedling stage include:
Light cycle – 16 hours per day
Always bear in mind that these conditions are merely rules of thumb. As such, you should first check out the specific requirements of your chosen strain. Once your seedlings have favorable conditions, they’ll develop with vibrant green color. When seedlings begin to produce leaves with 5 to 7 blades, you know they’re mature.
Vegetative (3-8 weeks)
When the seedlings are fully matured, you should transfer them into larger pots, ushering them into their third growth stage. Your plants will grow quickly and absorb more carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients in the vegetative stage.
Knowing your plants will require these resources for healthy and rapid growth means you should ensure they’re all available in the right amount. Your plant will grow vertically and gain about 2 inches in height in 24 hours. Also, the defining features of your chosen strain will become noticeable at this stage.
Indica will generally appear short and bushy while Sativa grows narrower and taller. This state also enables you to spot any males hidden in your crop. That’s because female marijuana plants start producing noticeably white pistils as your cannabis plants reach maturity in their vegetative cycle. On the contrary, males develop pollen sacs. Therefore, you need to remove them immediately to prevent them from pollinating the females and destroying your harvest.
Generally, the optimal conditions for the vegetative state are as follows:
Temperature – 68 and 77˚F
Humidity – 50% and 70%
Light cycle – 16-24 hours
4. Flowering (6-8 weeks)
The final stage of growth also happens to be the most critical phase for all marijuana growers. Studies suggest you reduce the light exposure of your crop to 12-12, where they get equal hours of light and darkness.
You will notice a sticky resin on the leaves of your marijuana plants when they’re fully flowered. It’s a sign of the well-developing cannabinoids in your crop. The potency of the marijuana you produce depends mainly on the duration of the flowering stage and the environmental factors.
Therefore, you want to maintain the following conditions:
Temperature – 68 and 77˚F
Fertilizer – phosphorus, potassium
Next, you have to decide the best time to harvest. Ideally, it is generally advisable to harvest when the pistils of your crop start turning brown and leaves turn yellowish. Remember, harvesting at the right time ensures the perfect taste, weight, smell, and potency.
There you have the four essential stages that consist of the life of a marijuana plant. This information and understanding come in handy when you nurse your cannabis seeds. However, before planting your first batch, it’s vital to check the laws in your state. Illegally cultivating weed can attract severe penalties. Hence, you always want to remain compliant with the rules and regulations. And that’s the final tip to help make your marijuana growing experience worthwhile.
Cycle of Life: What Are the Stages of Growing Cannabis?
There are several distinct stages in the life cycle of a cannabis plant. So what are the stages of growing cannabis? This quick guide will run you through the essentials.
Stage 1 – Germination
This is where it all begins – where your tiny seed will swell and burst in the presence of warmth and water, until its hard, tough casing finally cracks.
During this step to growing cannabis, your seedlings need only water and warmth to grow.
They don’t even need light, and may actually suffer stress if exposed to too much light.
So it’s perfectly fine to keep them in a dark cupboard or similar for the first couple of days – just make sure that they are kept warm and sufficiently moist!
Most growers germinate seeds in small trays, or simply on a scrap of cotton wool well-soaked in water.
What Happens During Germination…
- First, a tiny root emerges, known as the radicle. This is the principal taproot from which all other roots branch out (except for some “adventitious” roots that may grow later, straight from the stem).
- After the radicle has established itself, the next step is the growth of the stem and the first leaves – the cotyledons. These two “proto-leaves” are rounded, soft and smooth – very different from the serrated “true” leaves that will follow next.
- By the time the cotyledons have emerged, you should get your seedlings transplanted into your soil (or whatever your chosen medium is) as soon as possible.
- Once they’re transplanted, you’ll need to give them light so that they can move on to the next stage of cannabis plant growth – vegetative growth.
Stage 1(b) – Rooting
When you’re growing from clones, the “first step” in the life cycle of a cloned plant is actually the rooting stage!
To make clones, cuttings are taken from a mother plant, and quickly placed in a warm, well-lit, and moist environment.
Moisture is essential, as the plant no longer has roots and needs to keep its tissues hydrated.
When subjected to this procedure, the cuttings respond to their change in environment, and express rooting hormones in stem tissues in order to encourage the growth of new roots.
Typically, growers use a propagator (often not much more than a plastic box with a lid), and sometimes a heating pad to make clones.
The propagator helps hold moisture, and the heating pad obviously helps to maintain temperature.
Just remember to open the lid of the propagator at least once a day to allow excess moisture to escape.
What Conditions Are Needed For Rooting?
- Usually, rooting of clones takes 7-10 days.
- Relative humidity levels of 80-90%.
- Temperatures of 75-85 F.
- 20+ hours of light per day. are great for rooting.
Any hotter or more humid than this, and your clones may well succumb to mold before they ever get a chance to root!
By now your clones should be rooted and ready to transplant, and will behave pretty much like any other cannabis plant in later stages of growth.
However, there are a few differences.
Clones often aren’t quite as vigorous as their seed-grown counterparts, partly as they don’t have a radicle (taproot) and instead have a network of much smaller adventitious roots.
Stage 2 – Vegetative
At this stage of growing cannabis, your plants should have established the beginnings of a root system, and will really start to put a lot of energy into growing stems, branches and leaves.
The more time you are able to keep your plants in this stage, the bigger they will get – and if you veg for, say, 2-3 months, you could end up with absolute monsters at the end.
Many growers, especially indoors, limit the length of time they keep plants in veg, so that the eventual size of the plant is limited. This strategy also ensures that the overall life cycle of a plant is reduced.
Key Points About The Vegetative Stage
- Generally, cannabis plants grow vegetatively when they are exposed to 18 hours of light per day.
- Indoor growers usually veg for around 1-3 weeks before switching to flower.
- Young plants should be positioned close to the light to avoid stretching.
- Lights used at this stage of cannabis growth should be a little more blue than those used in flower.
- Lights with too much of a red/far-red spectrum may encourage stretching.
- Outdoor growers have less control over day length, but can practice light-deprivation techniques to kick off flowering early.
- The optimum temperature and RH for vegetative growth of cannabis is 68-86 F and 40-70%.
Stage 3 – Flowering
The penultimate of the steps to growing cannabis is arguably the most exciting and fascinating – the flowering stage!
This is where you will see the vegetative growth slow down and finally stop, and the growth of beautiful, pistil-fringed flowers.
In the first two weeks or so of flowering (and this depends heavily on variety!) your plants will continue to grow vegetatively – this phenomenon is often called “stretching”.
This why it’s important to limit the size of the plant – many indoor growers have let their plants veg for a little too long, only to find that they reach gigantic, unmanageable proportions when they’re done stretching.
What Happens During Flower Growth?
- To flower most cannabis strains, all you need to do is switch the light cycle from 18 to 12 hours per day.
- By around week 2 after switching light cycle, stretching should slow or stop.
- Small, sparse flower calyxes and limited crystal will be present at this point.
- By weeks 4 or 5, flowers should already be starting to plump up and form dense clusters.
- Structure, density and other characteristics of your flowers depend heavily on the variety.
- The generally-accepted optimum temperature and RH for flowering cannabis is around 68-82 F and 40-60% RH.
Environmental Factors To Consider
As well as variety, environmental factors are hugely important in determining how you plants will grow.
On top of this, different strains may respond very differently to different variables.
Some may hate excessive humidity, while others may not be able to tolerate excess heat.
- If temperatures are too cold, flowers could be smaller than average.
- Too hot, and they may grow very large flowers but be low in trichomes, and/or experience heat stress.
- Too humid, and they may form mold.
- Too dry, and again, you may limit flower size.
- However, you may significantly boost terpene levels if you keep RH below 40% during the final two weeks of flower.
Stage 4 – Maturity
The final stage of growing cannabis is maturity.
At this stage, the leaves will start to yellow and die off, and the rate of bud growth will slow right down.
By now, most of the pistils that fringe your flowers should have turned brown, pink, orange, or similar – although some varieties stay relatively white.
If you use a magnifying glass or loupe at this stage, you should be able to see the trichomes (the resinous, mushroom-head stalks that cover the leaves and buds, and that contain the cannabinoids and terpenes).
Before your plants reach maturity, the trichomes are translucent and clear.
When your plants are mature, these trichomes should mostly have changed to a milky-white color. Some trichomes may even have changed to amber.
A good rule of thumb is more than 50% milky white, and no more than 10% amber.
When your plants are definitely ready, it’s time to cut, dry and cure them. We’ll talk more about that in future articles – for now, we hope you have enjoyed our guide to the stages of growing cannabis!